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Tragic Empress      Gold Overall Winner Champion Bottled Beer of Norfolk 2017

Imperial Austrian Porter 9.6%
Bottle conditioned, in 330 ml bottles. Limited release of 270 bottles.

Brewed on: 7.11.2014 Bottled: 10.11.2015

Brewed again on: 2.4.2017 Bottled: 27.5.2017


The inspiration for this fantastic 'Imperial Austrian Porter' comes from an extended visit to Cromer by Empress Elisabeth of Austria in 1887. Born to a very high ranking Bavarian family, she was known to her friends and family as 'Sisy'. She was married to Franz Joseph and became Queen of Hungary and when he acquired the title of Emperor of Austria and Hungary she became the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. At least, this is what she was known as when she came to Cromer but her full list is titles was:
Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, Duchess in Bavaria, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria ; Queen of Jerusalem ; Archduchess of Austria ; Grand-duchess of Tuscany and Cracovia; Duchess of Lorraine, Salzbourg, Würzburg, Franconia, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukovine ; Grand princess of Transylvania ; Margravin of Moravia ; Duchess of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, Friul, Ragusa and Zara ; Countess-princess of Habsbourg and Tyrol, Kybourg, Gorizia and Gradisca ; Princess of Trenta and Brixen, Berchtesgaden and Mergentheim ; Margravin of Upper and Lower Lusatia, Margravin in Istria ; Countess of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, and Sonneberg ; Dame of Trieste, Kotor and Windischgraetz ; Grand voïvoda of Voïvodia of Serbia)

She was a non-conformist and didn't take well to court life; preferring instead to absent herself to go riding and hunting and to travel widely. She lived life on her own terms, which did not endear her to her in-laws. She was revered as the most beautiful woman in Europe and took great pains about her figure and posture and indulged in numerous diets, remedies and procedures to maintain her skin tone, her beautiful hair, figure and so on. Being immensely rich she could well afford to indulge herself but on the whole she led an ascetic life.

In Cromer she was extremely kind and generous. She was however deeply concerned for her safety and perhaps came to Cromer seeking some solitude in a quite, although classy, backwater. Whilst her privacy was respected it was of course well known that she was staying here. She had brought her horses and even her cows and every morning a cow would be brought onto the Promenade beneath her window in the Lower Tuckers Hotel where it was milked and the uncontaminated milk taken directly up to her suite, lest it be poisoned. She spent many long hours on the beach, reading and staring out to sea.

Her caution for her life was indeed very necessary for there were many anarchists in Europe who would plot against the establishment and she represented a very soft target indeed. One day, in 10 September 1898 her fate caught up with her and when about to board a steamer on Lake Geneva, she was attacked and stabbed through the heart with a sharpened needle file by an anarchist, 25 year old Luigi Lucheni. It is well-worth reading about his fascinating woman:


So this beer is strong, powerful and non-conformist; a bitter-sweet and rather ascetic beer in a style that I have called 'Imperial Austrian Porter' in her honour nut not unlike a Russian Imperial Stout. The label shows here on her wedding day when she was merely the Queen of Hungary. Inset is an item of her jewellery, a beautiful brooch in gold, diamonds and pearls which she gave in typical fashion as a thank you gift to John Fox, the Cromer postmaster in Jetty Street. It was discovered in a Post Office safe and given to Cromer Museum a century later (CRRMU : 1984.32).

Tasting notes

Low carbonation and rich body, very dark, almost black colour. It has a good clean malty aroma and an intense bitter-sweet flavour, with bitterness (63 IBU) from East Kent Goldings, Centennial and wild hops (Beeston Regis) balanced by sweet malt (Maris Otter pale, Cara GCara Goldwn malt, chocolate malt, black malt, crystal malt, roasted barley, wheat malt, oats); intense, complex and interesting flavours; a little bite of acidity, warmingalcoholl, rich roasty malt and a hoppy finish. During almost a year'sageingg in a French wine barrique a variety of yeasts were employed, including T58, US-05, champagne and Brettanomyces from agueuzee Boon to encourage it to reach terminal gravity. Extra lactic acidity was promoted by an addition of Freshes Creek.


Limited release of the first 270 x 330 ml bottles from the 225 litre barrique was made in November 2015. Available from the brewery and other outlets. Second release to be announced later. The very cautious best before date of "end of May 2016" can be ignored. I was concerned that it might over condition butaccelerateddageingg tests have proved that fear to be unfounded. This beer will keep indefinitely and future releases will have no best before date.

Second brewing

The first full-scale brewing of Tragic Empress won Gold in the CAMRA Awards 2017 but by that time the beer was out of stock, so I felt compelled to brew it again. This time I made sure that the fermentation would go more smoothly and quickly. I never intended to barrel-age this one for a whole year, just a month or so. In order to replicate the complexity andbarrel-ageingg I decided to kettle-sour the wort for 20 hours before the main fermentation. In my opinion this short-cut worked as I had hoped and I am very pleased with the outcome. Of course the flavours of the first and second brews will not be identical but I believe that the result is exactly what I was aiming for in both cases, so I am happy with that. The second brew finished with a strength of 8.5% and six hundred and twenty bottles were made.

What the customers say

"A beautiful ale befitting such a beautiful Empress,a satisfying galaxy of complex flavours allowed to develop over a year in the barrel!"
Teddy Maufe, The Real Ale Shop

"Thought this was going to be big...how wrong I was....it's HUGE! " Steve Saldana, Bexar County Brewery

Gluten advice

This immense beer was treated with Brewers Clarex to reduce gluten. However, testing showed that it had not attained gluten free status (<20ppm) and is classified as only "very low gluten" (<100ppm); independently tested at 41 ppm.

This beer is produced without the use of any finings, filtering or pasteurisation, so all the flavours of the ingredients are preserved for your enjoyment.

Martin Warren, The Poppyland Brewer